Thelma Todd

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Thelma Todd (July 29, 1905 - December 16, 1935) was an American film actress.

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Thelma Todd

Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and was a bright student who achieved good academic results. She intended to become a school teacher. However, in her late teens, she began entering beauty pageants, winning the title of Miss Massachusetts in 1925. While representing her home state, she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began her career in film.

During the silent era, she appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. With the advent of the talkies, Todd was given opportunity to expand her roles by the producer Hal Roach, who contracted her to appear with such comedic stars as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and Laurel & Hardy. At Roach studios, she appeared as the lead actress in a series of comedy films with actresses Zasu Pitts and Patsy Kelly. She became highly regarded as a capable film comedienne, loaned out to other studios to play opposite Wheeler & Woolsey, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, and the Marx Brothers. She also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon. During her career she appeared in more than 130 films and was sometimes publicised as The Ice Cream Blonde.

In the early 1930s, she opened a successful cafe at Pacific Palisades, called Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, attracting a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as many tourists.

On the morning of December 16, 1935, she was found dead in her car inside her garage, and her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates as well as a busy social life. Police investigations revealed that she had spent the last night of her life at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his daughter, the actress Ida Lupino. She had been involved in an argument with her boyfriend Roland West. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for committing suicide.

Police were offered other alternatives throughout their investigations. One theory widely supported by Todd's friends was that Roland West had grown frustrated by Todd's flightiness and, to keep her from leaving her premises to attend another party, had locked her in the garage. Her resulting death according to this theory was accidental. However, a key, which would have allowed her to escape, was found in Todd's handbag.

A second theory was that Todd had turned on the motor of the car in order to keep warm and had fallen asleep. Roland West had closed the door to the garage without realising Todd was inside, and she had died as a result.

A third theory, created in the novel Hot Toddy, postulates she was murdered by New York gangster "Lucky" Luciano because of her refusal to allow him to involve her club with illegal gambling. Though a work of fiction, disregarding most basic facts,(Luciano never met Todd, or even set foot in Califonia in her life time) the tale so captivated conspiracy buffs that it has become the most celebrated of all theories.

The Los Angeles DA's department and a Grand Jury were unable to establish the true circumstances surrounding her death. The conjecture that surrounded it at the time, which has never been resolved with a definitive explanation, is an early example of what would become known as a conspiracy theory with rumours and suppositions accepted as fact and widely divergent opinions given credence. The fact that her body was cremated caused theorists to conjecture that this had been done to destroy evidence and to prevent a second autopsy. However, by this time, authorities were satisfied with her official cause of death.

Her death certificate states her cause of death as accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Her remains were buried in Bellevue Cemetery in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Thelma Todd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Blvd.

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